Tag Archives: DnD

Mint D&D

Cold hard cash, so often the reward for a fight in D&D. Never mind the dodgy magic item economy that’s designed to follow this scooping up of coinage, let’s consider the practicalities.

Have you ever counted out and stacked one hundred coins? What about a thousand? Ten thousand? I have. It’s mind numbing. And that’s with modern stackable currency almost designed to sit right. You can get little machines designed to weigh money bags, but that also relies on modern minting consistency. I shudder to think just how long it would take to even remotely accurately count out coin based loot in a dark wet monster infested dungeon.

And then you have to carry it. Know what it’s like when you’ve somehow ended up with more than ten pound coins in your pocket? It’s like having a small rodent squirming around in there. You’re almost desperate to find a car park so you can offload the chump change. Just how much would 100gp weigh? (I could look it up. I won’t though.)

Point being: I love imagining the tiny dark parts of D&D. I couldn’t give a monkeys about Gate spells or Crafting potions (which fill entire sourcebooks with their explanations and expansions), but I do love thinking about the grubby business of spiking doors, spilling oil, and counting coin.

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Fantasy science

My last in a trilogy of setting heists, my big cosmological universe stuff.

On that scale, there’s only one place to turn, the big ideas from sci fi. I adore fantasy for my gaming, but as a reader I prefer to get my jollies with space ships. I grew up on Larry Niven, so I’m putting my setting on a ring world, just because I can.

If you don’t know what that is, let me try to paraphrase the original work. Imagine a 50 foot length of blue ribbon, about an inch wide, laid on its edge and formed into a circle on the ground. At the centre, place a candle. Thats the sun, and the inside face of the ribbon is the surface of the world. The whole thing is spun to provide gravity. Imagine the horizon! Between the surface and the sun hang massive square structures wired together like a necklace. As they move they cast shadows upon the surface, simulating night and day.

And of course my world has the benefit of magic, so I don’t even have to have it make sense. I’ll have the Underdark included, as the dark outer side of the world. Let’s call them Neathers. As for the shadow squares, I prefer to have them as little planets, which gives me all kinds of cool eclipses to work with. I think I’ll also have them be the domains of the gods (why not?), which gets me my planar fun in.

By the way, I’ve always like the concept of Feywild and Shadowfell, but I want them more as physical locations that you can walk to and through rather than ‘step sideways’ to.

For giggles, I’m thinking of putting a literal twist into the ring world and making it a Möbius Strip.

While I’m at it I’ll be stealing liberally from my fave sci fi authors Peter F Hamilton and Iain M Banks. Their ideas are too good to waste, and magic will explain everything. So let’s have sentient ships, and let’s have them be mental and dangerous. Let’s have Edenists instead of elves. Let’s have a zombie invasion, but from the spirit world. Let’s have a Culture, benevolent dictators from around the ring somewhere. Yeah.

And all that’s easy enough to fit on a page or two. After that it’s just going through the classes and races, and making a permission list with house rules. And then we do characters.

Game on!

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Classic Magic setting seeds

Looking back over my classic sixth edition cards, here are some starting seeds for my new DnD setting.

Nevinyrral, writer of the Necromancers Handbook
Panther Warriors
“if it is weak, either kill it or ignore it. Anything else honours it.” – Kaervek
Kjeldor, ice age historian
Volrath, a Necromancer
Rath, the name of the earth?
Trained Armodons, these are their last days
The Llanowar Elves. Tattooed, pale and aggressive.
The rod of ruin
Gerrard of the Weatherlight
Suq’Ata, a people or place?
Samite healers
The Institute of Arcane Study
Norin the Wary
Selenia, dark angel
D’Avenant archers
Karn, silver golem
Talibah, embermage
Anaba, the minotaurs
Enron the Relentless
Naimag, Femeref philosopher
Mana prism

And from a starter deck of Portal Second Age:

Restela, Alaborn Marshal
Tojira, swamp queen
Dakmor scorpion
Talas, explorers, merchants and air sailors
Arathel, elvish queen
Trokin high guard
Jefan, Talas ship captain

And that, along with some beautiful pieces of card art, looks like a great start for a setting.

I could trawl through the online wikis and directories for more, but I want to keep the hyper detail at arms length. I want to be inspired, not rail roaded.

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Play testing Next

Gave the new playtest packet a quick go last week. A couple of the guys couldn’t make our usual game, so we were down to three players and myself. So we used the fighter, wizard and rogue and put the two clerics in the background. Had a feeling we might need their healing help at some point, and I was to be proved right.

I’ve been keeping up with other blogs and fora, so I had some idea of the potential pitfalls in the game. I’d considered making some changes based on that feedback, but in the end I wanted to playtest what we had, not what I thought we should have. So I went with the Caves of Chaos rather than doing my own thing.

We started with a run through of the character sheets. This turned out to be easy to explain. That’s my first take away, the game looks easy to teach at this point. I’m pretty sure complete novices would have managed after 5 mins. Most of the explanation went into what wasn’t held over from 4e (my group are 3/4e vets in the main, I’m the one with the multi edition experience)

The PCs introduced themselves to each other, and immediately the flavour started to come out. You could simply read out race, class, background and theme and you’d have a good picture of the character. I liked that. I also appreciated the equipment being part of the look of the character. I could ‘see’ the backpacks laden with gear.

I laid out the map of the caves for the players to see (why not? Let’s get to the play right?) and after a little discussion they chose…. Cave A. Uh oh. That’s the kobold cave. This is the one that caused so many online conniptions recently. At least I was aware of some potential issues in advance. Still, let’s see what our experiences are.

I sketched out the cave entrance and plonked down some kobold minis in little batches. Yes, this was on a grid, but I deliberately placed the kobolds ‘naturally’ rather than in their own distinct squares. We rolled initiative. I had to open up the bestiary to find the kobolds mods, so the short form stats in the adventure let me down there. Wizard wins init and opens up with a Sleep spell. Astonishingly poor rolling meant only 2 out of 8 kobolds hit the dirt! It could easily have gone the other way. The fighter asked about charging (flick, flick, err no! Nothing in the rules on that…) and the halfling rogue opened up with the sling. With the kobolds on 2hp each, they went down very easily. I made the decision to have one kobold run for help, which brought the encounter to a close.

The party cautiously entered the caves. With the fighter up front, he spotted the pit trap early. The rogue used his skills in natural lore to know about the kobolds hatred of bright light and unslung his bullseye lantern. The skill rolls were working really well here. It felt natural to go back to the raw abilities rather than a defined list. Strong characters tried to do strength based things, clever characters worked in their Int. I liked this. The auto success rule went down well too. The wizard just knows most basic stuff with no roll. The rogue can do basic acrobatics with no roll. The fighter can break basic stuff with no roll. It speeds up play and cements the roles nicely. Loved this.

Another running battle with kobolds turned into a quick chase. The dwarf was faster than the kobold, but wasn’t brave/stupid enough to solo his way into trouble. The rest of the party caught up before they tracked the runner to the chieftains lair. Some rounds later and we all noticed a lot of movement going around the map. The lack of opportunity attacks meant much freer movement, and I liked that. It meant they could rush the wizard very easily, but her Shocking Grasp made them think twice.

In fact, the wizards cantrips saw a lot of use. Ray of Frost was cool (sorry) and evocative. Magic Missile was effective, in a functional almost boring way. No rolling for attack or damage made for a dull turn.

The wizard had the most colourful abilities for sure, but also the least hp and the hit dice mechanic wasn’t going to have her back in the game very quickly. The rogue and fighter were three combats in and still ok, and could have pressed on. We summoned clerical help and that turned things well in the pcs favour during the chieftain battle.

Some exploration followed, along with a nice vignette where the fighter spared the kobold women and children his wrath.

All this took about 90 minutes, so we wrapped up and chatted about our likes and dislikes.

Everyone liked it, and has shown interest in playing again. We are all waiting to see what’s in the next packet as we could all do with a bit more in the way of complexity and options right now. The base packet is fast, and gets you a lot of game in a little time. Yes, you have to make plenty of judgement calls and flex your expectations, but that’s worth it for more game I reckon. The players did have to adjust to negotiating their actions. In 4e, it’s designed to remove all doubt, just read it, and it happens exactly like that. In Next, everything’s up in the air until the DM assents. I’m fine with that, and have the experience to make rulings. In the hands of an immature DM this could wreck games. It’s a balance for sure, and the game needs good advice to help on these calls.

The jury is still out on advantage/disadvantage right now. Lots to like about it (I twice rolled a 19 and a 20 while disadvantaged!) but it managed to catch us out a couple of times too. The interplay between kobold numbers, bright light, and ambushing had us all stop and think at times. Still, this is no worse than half remembered mods to rolls. We never had to hit the ‘turn back time’ button, as we could just add in an extra roll if we forgot. I think I’d like to see it remain overall.

As a DM I saw the rougher parts of the system. The monsters need loads of work. The scenario is showing its age. Both these things rely on experience to DM, and I would hope novices get a lot more help in the final cut.

Overall, we’re all looking forward to another go. This is a good start, a really good start, but there’s an awful lot more to do yet.

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Micro encounter

I’ve been asked to contribute to an Old School sandbox adventure. The brief is simple, low level, in a fairy tale forest. As it happens I was working up some stuff for a 4e adventure based around the Witchlight Fens. It’s easy enough to transpose, so with a quick rewording here’s an example of a fleshed out random encounter, the Giants Bones…

A moss covered mound turns out to be ancient skeletal remains of a stone giant. The skeleton is in remarkably good condition, being made of stone, it’s just covered in plant and fungal growth after decades lain in the woods. All the giants belongings have rotted away, or been stolen away, except for one. The giants body fell across his broadsword, which still lies beneath it untouched and waiting to be found.

The sword is nearly ten feet in length, so cannot be carried, let alone wielded, by any human sized creature. It is of plain design except for a single rune carved on the blade near the hilt. The sword is highly magical, and sapient. It can detect both law and chaos up to 3 times per day. It is +3 to hit and damage (+5 vs law/chaos). The sword can communicate with its wielder, and will happily do so. It’s goal is to strike balance, to destroy extremists of any stripe. It reserves a special loathing for the gods and their followers. It calls itself Oncelimor, and in eons past was once wielded by the queen of titans.

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Everyone’s a designer now

My decision to write my own game has come at a time when the game I’m basing it on, 4e, is being chopped up and put into the DnDNext cooking pot. Which makes for interesting times. It means I’m having the same thoughts as every fan out there with an Internet connection and an axe to grind. I haven’t made any pronouncements on my hopes and fears for the Next project, because I haven’t entirely figured them out yet. Instead I thought it more fruitful to pour my ideas into Commando instead.

Where it gets weird is when my notes mesh so completely with some of the playtest reports coming out of the XP seminars. For instance, I decided today to strip out the skills list and go back to abilities at the core. I still want to provide bonuses, but that will be done through circumstance and discreet powers (feats for example). Seems the Next crew think exactly the same.

I’m also working at expanding combat advantage. For my game it will work in both directions, you can grant it to opponents, and you can gain it from them too. Also, I want to use it in the other pillars of the game, social encounters, infiltration, exploration, etc. I want to use the term Advantage to mean a lot, both mechanically and literally. Seems WotC are going down the same lines from the skills and abilities seminar released today.

Of course, this could just mean I’m gonna love the new edition. Happy days. Trouble is, it’s throwing me (literally) off my game as every fan posts comments in the pros and cons of very utterance. I wonder if the WotC guys will leave XP with their heads spinning like mine is? It’s hard to stay true to a vision when everyone wants to chip away at it when it’s barely started.

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Haunted Temples

Without any real fanfare, there’s a nice new release from WotC just arrived through the post. It’s Haunted Temples, a map pack for playing out larger encounters. These are big double sided colour poster maps, that you’ll have seen in adventures and sourcebooks from the last few years. There’s 3 posters, of which one is completely new (that’s the temples of the title). These were showcased at the DnD site here: http://www.wizards.com/dnd/Article.aspx?x=dnd/drdd/20120111

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These are genuinely useful for any game, not just DnD and not just 4e. Even the little folder is quite nice! There’s been an appetite for these, so it’s a shame they’ll probably go under the radar what with all the 5e noise.

Recommended.

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